📚Noisy Deadlines

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."- Douglas Adams

What I read in April 2021

This month I abandoned a book. I started reading it, I thought it was not too interesting but I insisted until I got to 40%. Then I gave up. Life is too short. It was actually one of my local Book Club picks. It was the first time I attended a book club meeting without having finished a book. And it was fine! A couple of other participants couldn't finish it either, so I didn't feel that bad. That being said, I read three books this month. And all of them were exactly what I needed: fun!

  1. Fool Moon (The Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher: This book is extremely fast-paced. It's non-stop and Harry Dresden shows himself as a guy with extreme endurance. He really gets beat up on this one, but he always gets up in the end. It has the two best potion recipes of all times: the Stimulant “Pick me up” potion (base liquid is coffee) and the Blending potion, to make him imperceptible to a werewolf. I had fun!
  2. The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency, #1) by John Scalzi, 336p: I love a space opera, especially when it's character-driven. Lots of snarky dialogues, great characters and worldbuilding that is not boring. I was pleasantly surprised by all the strong female characters. Kiva Lagos is awesome if you don't mind all the swearing. I could see lots of parallels from the Interdependency world with ours. It's that same old story: one family or group of people creates some myth/prophecy about the world in which skewed power relations are defined to justify the maintenance of the said world/society. This book is rich with political intrigue, commercial embargoes, power succession and environmental changes. I enjoyed the ride and I want to spend more time with the characters, so I'll read the next one.
  3. Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age by Annalee Newitz, 304p: Fascinating to know how data archeology is helping us understand a little bit more about our ancient history. This book explores four sites: Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, the Roman town of Pompeii in Italy, Angkor in Cambodia and the indigenous metropolis Cahokia in the U.S. The book brings history to life by trying to imagine what was it like to be a regular citizen of these places: labourers, women, immigrants, slaves. Super entertaining and informative.

#readinglist #books #reading


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

For the past month, I've been having overloaded days at work. It has disrupted my routine, my downtime and my sleep. Handling many projects at a time with deadlines within a couple of weeks is not easy! And although I have a productivity system in place, I organize my day, I have routines and I take notes... things started to fall through the cracks. And I caught myself having to work after-hours to finish things. And sometimes I do work a little bit more, let's say once a month before an important deadline. But what happened last week was insane. I was working extra 4-5 hours for 3 days in a row! And that took a toll on my health. By Friday I was lightheaded, sleepy, anxious, brain fogged, exhausted and with a headache... My right shoulder started hurting again (it usually happens if I spend too much time doing intensive mouse work on the computer). I thought I got rid of this pain... but it's back.

I couldn't prioritize anything, I couldn't organize my notes, I couldn't even take a break. Whenever I stopped to try and breathe I started worrying about the things I was not doing. That's anxiety, right?

Anyway, I've been focusing on some habits to get back on track. It takes time, I can't recover in a couple of days. It takes time for me to get back to my baseline. My self-care focus is:

  1. Sleep. Get as much sleep as possible. But still keeping the same wake-up time. I noticed that when I sleep in I wake up feeling like crap and then all my morning routine is easily put aside.
  2. Meditation. 10 minutes in the morning doesn't look like much but it makes a difference. I feel better when I meditate for 15 or 20 minutes. On the days I worked too much, meditating before bed for 10 minutes helped me have a better sleep.
  3. Stretching/Yoga/Moving. I need to move in the morning. It doesn't have to be anything intense, but I need something. I got into a trap: I woke up tired, I barely stretched in the morning, and that made me feel worse throughout the day, and then I didn't sleep well and the whole cycle repeated itself. So, I NEED at least 20 minutes of exercise in the morning. It's vital to manage my chronic pain.
  4. Waking up early even on weekends. This one I've been neglecting for a while. But every time I sleep in, I regret it. Especially when I skip my meditation/exercise routine first thing in the morning.
  5. Journaling/Writing things down. I've been feeling too tired to write at all. I want to get back to writing for longer periods of time. To reflect, focus on feelings, scrutinize thoughts, let them go and wander.
  6. Reading. I've been too foggy-minded and tired to get any amount of quality reading done. This weekend I finally could get back to my normal reading habit.

For my work routines, I will focus on the following:

  1. Check e-mail less frequently I check email too often. In fact, I leave the email tab open at ALL TIMES! I recognized that it is extremely anxiety-inducing. It's one of those old habits that are hard to get rid of. So, this will be a mini-goal for next week: Check e-mail in the morning, at noon and by 3 pm.
  2. Protect my time. I want to be less reactive to other people's demands. I believe avoiding checking my Inbox might help with this. Unless it's something high priority my manager is asking, I'll take my time to get back to people.
  3. Time block my Calendar. I'll plan my day in the morning, blocking off deep work sessions to focus. No cheking email, social media, news, messages, whatever during deep work.
  4. Stop working at 5 pm. As recommended by Cal Newport, I will start a shutdown routine at 4:45 pm so that I'm off at 5 pm. It might help to do a brain dump session at the end of the day to externalize all my worries and transition to my evening rest.

Phew, I feel better writing this down.

#journal #noisymusings #work #anxiety


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

What I read in March 2021 (updated)

  1. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, 464p: I didn't need to be convinced that God is a delusion, but it was interesting to follow scientific logic to analyze religion and its inconsistencies. Dawkins builds up the God Hypothesis and my favourite part of the book is then he presents the spectrum of probabilities about the existence of God, ranging from 1 to 7, including for example “Strong Theist”, “Impartial Agnostic” all the way to “Strong Atheist”. I considered myself an agnostic but after reading this book I realized I am “De-facto Atheist ” according to the Dawkins spectrum: “I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.” It is an extremely provoking read. But worth the ride.

  2. Empire in Black and Gold (Shadows of the Apt, #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky, 625p: After I understood that the “bug people” were actually humanoid and not animal-like, everything made more sense. They are men and women belonging to different groups like ants, beetles, wasps, butterflies, mantis, dragonflies, etc... Each of these groups has different abilities and characteristics. It's exceptional world-building with that good-old Dungeons and Dragons feel. I couldn't put this book down. It's very engaging and I cared about all the characters, even the evil ones. Strong female characters, cool fight scenes, perfect rhythm. I loved it! I will continue reading the series.

  3. A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload by Cal Newport, 320p: The concept of the hyperactive hive mind workflow makes sense. It gave me some awareness of this workflow and I can probably adopt one or two minor strategies to deal with it. I don't think any of the major strategies, like office hours or having shared boards at work would work for me, it would require an upper management radical shift at my workplace. Also, it has become clear to me the importance of having clear defined workflows. Cal Newport defines that knowledge work as the combination of two components: work execution and workflow. So workflows that require us to be constantly checking a feed or inbox is inefficient and make us miserable. A better way of working is to have fewer ad hoc, unscheduled, asynchronous conversations. In summary, the book brings suggestions on how to use email very strategically if not at all. It's an interesting discussion. I loved the first part of the book about the history of email.

  4. The Fold (Threshold #2) by Peter Clines, 386p: This was an enjoyable read. It starts with a mystery, the main character has to uncover what is going on with this secret DARPA project involving a teleportation device. But nobody tells him how it works so we follow along with his exceptional visual memory skills trying to find patterns and explanations for some odd phenomena. [It's all very sci-fi/mystery and then the book turns into a sort of horror tale with monsters from other dimensions. Entertaining!

#readinglist #books #reading


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I love observing the change of seasons. Today my walk looked slightly different. The snow is melting and the downside is that there is still lots of slippery ice on some patches. But the sun is up until 7pm now so no need for the headlight anymore. And the geese and singing birds are back! Signs of Spring!

End of winter feelings

#journal #noisymusings #winter


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I like to have routines. Or, more precisely, I NEED routines to keep myself sane. It is a coping mechanism to tone down my anxiety.

And I love mornings! It's when I have more energy so I figured out a few years ago that taking advantage of my mornings was beneficial to my health. After some experimentation I settled with the following morning routine:

  1. Wake-up at 5:30am: jump out of bed (I leave my alarm across the bedroom so that I have to get up to turn if off).
  2. Bathroom stop: Splash some water on my face, empty my bladder.
  3. Drink a cup of water with my stomach medication.
  4. Grab my headphones and phone, unroll my yoga mat on the living room floor.
  5. Do a 10 or 15 minutes meditation (I've been using the Calm app.
  6. Stretch/exercise: I alternate between a basic 15 min bodyweight routine or 15-30min of Yoga, depending on the day. Some days I need a slow Hatha yoga session focusing on stretching, some days it's a Vinyasa Flow or body weight exercises (focus on the core). I've been using the app DownDog for yoga and I love it.
  7. Put my yoga mat away and start preparing breakfast. I keep my breakfast lowcarb, usually an omelet with tea.
  8. Eat breakfast, clean dishes, pack my snacks for the day.
  9. Take a bath/brush my teeth/dress/get-ready-to-leave.

I'm usually out the door by 7:40am. It's enough for me to get to work at 8am. I live close to my workplace.

The above list is for the ideal day. Some days are not perfect, and I end up meditating for 10 minutes and doing some quick stretches for 5 minutes. Some days I spend more time chatting with my partner (and skipping a Yoga session) before I leave.

The most important thing to make a routine like this work is: go to bed early the day before! I have to be in bed by 9:45pm otherwise I'll loose sleep time and then I'll be exhausted during the day. When it's 9pm I'm getting into my “slow down” routine, turn off all screens, make sure I packed my lunch for the next day, get into my pajamas and read until I am ready to sleep.

I'm happy with my routine right now. I'm learning not to be too harsh on myself. There are good days and bad days. I have struggled with back pain for many years and I must keep some kind of stretching/warming up exercise in the morning. I need to move a little in the morning. And meditation helps me calm down my “monkey mind”.

Last year, in the midst of the pandemic, my morning routine was disrupted, I started having terrible back pain again, I couldn't sleep well because of the pain and therefore I didn't have energy for my morning routine. I felt sleepy and sluggish all day. I started a Chiropractic treatment for my back pain and by the end of last year I felt I could get back to Yoga and my sleep was not being interrupted with discomfort (aka pain). Better sleep meant better rest, more energy, no pain during the day (or night) and overall well being. This Spring, I want to get back to running!

#noisymusings #journal #routine


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

What I read in February 2021 It was a difficult month for reading for me! I had to actively remind myself: “Hey, you have books to read, why don't you let go of that shiny screen and grab your e-reader”? I just felt I was reading slower than I used to. That knee jerk reaction to stop reading and check something on my phone instead showed up a lot. I'll keep on working on my reading focus.

  1. The Outside (The Outside #1) by Ada Hoffmann, 401p: I enjoyed the word building. I wanted to keep reading to find out what the Outside was. And I wanted to know more about the AI Gods. I realized in the middle of the book that it had inspiration from Lovecraft with all the Outside creatures and the “outside madness” condition. It was creepy to think that Artificial Intelligent quantum computers, that were created by humans, came up with a technological religious authoritarian system to control humans.
  2. A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan #1) by Arkady Martine, 454p: This one had a Dune feel to it. Planets, Space Stations, alien threats, Artificial Intelligence running an entire City, neurological implants, a murder mystery and political intrigues. The pace was slower than I'm used to but it managed to keep me interested enough to pick up the book at every opportunity I had. It's heavy on world building but it is executed in a very clever way through the eyes of the protagonist Mahit Dzmare. She goes to the City at the heart of the Empire of Teixcalaan as an Ambassador to her original home, the Lsel Station. Teixcalaan's culture and language is heavily influenced by poetry being a sophisticated place with lots of social norms. This book has that intellectual appeal without being boring.
  3. How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism by Cory Doctorow, 146p. This a free book available on Medium. Interesting discussion on the status of Big Tech disputing the assumption that tech companies can and will regulate themselves to fix the Internet. Can we fix Big Tech companies that dominate our Internet or can we fix it by ourselves, free of the Big Tech influence? One of the main points discussed by the author is monopoly. His point is: Monopoly enables mass scale surveillance. Food for thought.

“Surveillance capitalism is the result of monopoly. Monopoly is the cause, and surveillance capitalism and its negative outcomes are the effects of monopoly”. — Cory Doctorow

#readinglist #books #reading


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

... this weekend and the ice was smooth at the Canal. I went farther than I’ve ever gone before. I felt like in the end I had learned something new about skating, I was gliding more, my pushes felt stronger. But I was exhausted, after all it was almost 11km of skating in total!

Smooth ice at the Canal - Feb 21, 2021

And then I saw today that the Canal will temporarily close 😕tonight due to “adverse weather conditions” which I think is related to the +2C temperatures we had today.

I hope it reopens still one more time before the end of this winter. I’d like to practice more. With no indoor rinks available and only a few outdoor refrigerated rinks open, the Canal is the best option to go practice.

#winter #iceskating #noisymusings


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

... from the snowfall today. Fresh, fluffy snow ☃

Winter - Feb 16 2021

Winter- Feb 16, 2021

#winter #snow


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

It's been a little over a month since I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts. At the beginning I went through some weird cravings to check something, anything and: scroll, scroll, scroll! That probably lasted a couple of weeks. I was constantly getting into news websites, checking the weather forecast, checking e-mail... in a rate that was abnormal. Even sites with any addictive features like Read.Write.as became an obsession. I realized I was just duplicating a learned behaviour after using the internet for years: scrolling endlessly. If one source was done, I jumped to another, to keep on scrolling. Weird. I think it was a withdrawal reaction. And for the first time I was aware that this scrolling addiction was imprinted in me at a subconscious level.

After the realization something clicked in my head: I just decided that was not a behaviour I wanted to practice anymore. I also observed that my phone was my twitch. It was easy enough to reach out and start some “doom scrolling”. This post “How My Digital Lifestyle is Changing” brings the definition of “doom scrolling” which I found interesting. So, yeah, my digital lifestyle is changing as well.

And every time we stop doing an addictive behaviour we better have a substitute. A more fulfilling one. Cal Newport in his book “Digital Minimalism” says that if we white-knuckle through a “digital declutter” without substituting the old behaviour with a better one, we will go back to the old behaviour. And social media, specifically, are basically a replacement for social interaction. We think it will fulfill our “social bucket” but then we are caught up in its addictive algorithms and the quality social connection we expected is not there. Cal Newport suggests that we need to think about high quality leisure activities to replace the time we would have spent otherwise (like doom scrolling).

For me, reading, writing, long walks with my partner and yoga were my substitutes last month. I fulfilled the social part of the equation by engaging with my city's local science-fiction and fantasy book club. They've been having virtual meet-ups since the pandemic started. I attended one meeting yesterday and had lots of fun! Since I'm an introvert I don't crave a whole lot of social interaction, so that was the perfect cup of tea.

After I felt I was disengaged enough from the scrolling addictive behaviour, I started exploring the Fediverse to see how it was different from the major social media platforms. I have a Mastodon account now. At first I thought I would fall into the same old doom scrolling pattern, but since it's decentralized and it doesn't have the ads/news monetizing cycle, I don't feel the addictive pull. I access it on my own terms and it doesn't create that craving or FOMO feeling for me. I'll keep on experimenting.

I just saw this video today by The Minimalists that I think gets to one of the main issue with social media, and it is by design. Food for thought.

#socialmedia #attentionresistance #internet #noisymusings #deletefacebook #digitalminimalism


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

I went ice skating on the Rideau Canal this morning. Ice conditions were good (according to the City website) but there was a forecast of 40% chance of light snow. Temperature was nice at around -5C. I decided to go because you never how long the canal is going to be open and it was a chance to experience ice skating under the snow.

And... the only difference is that because it is snowing, and snow will accumulate on the ice you can't really see the ice imperfections anymore. The Canal skateway is never perfect, so usually you see some cracks and bumps here and there and you can avoid them. But today, the difficulty level was turned to HARD. You know you have obstacles but they are hidden: GO!

I did fall once because of a hidden bump, and I was probably skating slower than normal (which is not very fast anyway).

Snow and ice

And now I know what it feels like to skate with snow conditions! Not my favourite experience but at the same time I could focus more on keep on moving instead of looking for bumps on the ice. It was... interesting.

#winter #noisymusings #iceskating #outdoors


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.

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